John Taylor, bassist with Duran Duran chats with Kevin Cooper about working with Robert Palmer, his favourite Duran Duran videos, their new album Paper Gods and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Nigel John Taylor is an English musician who is best known as the bass guitarist and co-founder of new wave band Duran Duran. Duran Duran were one of the most popular groups in the world during the 1980s due to their revolutionary music videos that played in heavy rotation in the early days of MTV. Taylor played with Duran Duran from its founding in 1978 until 1997, when he left to pursue a solo recording and film career. He recorded a dozen solo releases (albums, EPs, and video projects) over a four year period, through his company Trust The Process. He had a lead role in the movie Sugar Town, and made appearances in other film projects. He was also a member of two super groups; Power Station and Neurotic Outsiders. He re-joined Duran Duran for a reunion of the original five members of the group in 2001 and has remained ever since.

Currently in the middle of a UK arena tour, he took time out of his busy schedule to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.


Hi John how are you?

I’m very well Kevin thank you.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me.

No, thank you for having me.

How is life treating you?

Things are pretty good Kevin. How do we say in England, not too bad (laughter). I am finding myself spending a lot of time over in the USA and over there they would say “just great” whilst over here we go for a more dour approach don’t we. But in answer to your question Kevin I am doing great thank you.

You have mentioned the USA so I will ask you. You have taken up American citizenship so where do you now class as home?

To be honest with you Kevin with me it is very much a back and forth thing. I feel quite lucky really in that I love California and I try to spend as much time there as I can. But at the end of the day the band is a British band and the rest of the guys all live in England and so it feels as though the band has to stay grounded in English culture.

You are currently getting ready to tour the UK once again with Duran Duran. Are you looking forward to being back out on the road?

Yes Kevin I always do. I love touring Britain and I particularly love touring in December. We have been doing December tours since way back in 1981. It has almost become a tradition with us and I think that people just enjoy seeing the band at that time of the year (laughter). We enjoy getting out and about seeing the country and the fans and it is a good time of the year to do it. It is a good time of the year for us to play indoors. We love playing the outdoor festivals in the UK in the summer but there is something about that indoor feeling in December that is simply great.

Do you still get a buzz out of touring or is it now a necessary evil?

For me Kevin I simply love to play. There are two things that we do; we go into the studio where we write songs and then we go on tour and we play concerts. It is like the chicken and the egg Kevin. We have to write songs so that we can get out on the road and tour. However for me the performance is that part of all of this that I love. That is the buzz for me. So for me the necessary evil is for us to have to produce more material (laughter). Touring and playing concerts for me is instant gratification. It is a completely different vibe as the lights go down; it is pure adrenalin. It is like the difference between a match and training for it.

You have been playing in Nottingham for many years now starting at Rock City way back in the early 80’s. Do you have any naughty stories about your time spent here in Nottingham?

No (laughter).

You took quite a while to record your latest album Paper Gods, are you happy with the result?

Yes you are quite right Kevin. We spent almost two years on this album and that is a lot of time to spend in the studio, especially when you are banging your head against the wall. However I have to say that I am very pleased with the results and I am extremely happy with the way that it came out but at the end of the day, as you have said, it was a very long project. We put a lot into it and it is always nice when people respond positively to a new album. It was really satisfying with just how well the fans have responded to the album. I think that it has really hit a nerve with them.

Obviously when you spend such a long time making an album you want people to like it; you want people to connect with it, otherwise you feel a bit of an idiot. What I can say Kevin is that I am enjoying playing the new songs. We are currently playing a few of them in our concerts and they are fun to play. I have to say that it doesn’t get any easier to get your music out there to the fans as time goes on.

You mention the length of time that it took you to record the album. Why was that?

(Laughter) oh have I (laughter). I think that finding inspiration as you get older is obviously hard especially when you are trying to make something which ticks a lot of boxes. Plus there are four guys in the band and they all want to feel great about it. So the songs that we write together with the way that we produce them, everybody has got to feel really good about it. Then there are the producers that come on-board and I feel that we have reached that point where we have to ask just how many more Duran Duran albums are there going to be.

Are you telling me that Paper Gods may well be the last Duran Duran album ever?

What I will say to you Kevin is that there aren’t going to be that many more. And because that may be the case then you feel that you have got to make it as good as you can. Because there are not going to be that many but the ones that are will be here forever. In this digital world everything lasts forever Kevin so it is going to be around forever so let’s just make sure that it is a good one. We don’t want to feel embarrassed by it in a couple of years’ time. Having said all of that you never know (laughter).

What was it like being back working with Nile Rodgers once again?

Oh it was amazing. Nile is one of the most inspirational musicians who I have ever worked with. When you look at his résumé and you look at the people who have gone to him for inspiration over the years, then clearly the guy has got something. Nile is a musician’s producer. Whilst technology has changed the way that music is produced, in that we tend to produce from the computer screen really, whereas Nile producers from his guitar. We had a few days together at Mark Ronson’s studio in London where it was just so great to be able to play with the funk master. He just reminded me of where I was coming from as a bass player and who I wanted to be as a bass player.

It was like restating my vows because as a bassist you can very easily get lost in the technology of today. There are so many different ways to make bass especially within the electronica world. And playing with Nile was simply inspirational. We have just finished touring America with Nile and Chic actually and talk about inspirational having Chic on the shows with us. Nile would join us on stage for a few songs every night. He is simply one of a kind Kevin.

On the subject of bass players, who was it that turned you onto James Jamerson, the Funk Brothers bass player at Motown?

James Jamerson’s work was introduced to me by Bernard Edwards who as you will probably know was the bass player in Chic. He was the first bassist that I really noticed and I thought that I would like to play like that. At that time I hadn’t really thought of myself as being a bass player as I wanted to play the guitar. It was when I heard Bernard’s playing which seemed to have a drive to it, it really seemed to propel the music in the way that the guitar did in Punk music. I thought that maybe I could be that type of a bass player. So I became a bass player, I joined Duran Duran and then I met and became good friends with Bernard. It was then that Bernard told me that his inspiration was all about James Jamerson.

Of course growing up in England in the 60’s I knew Motown songs; songs like Same Old Song. I was well aware of Smokey Robinson and Motown is in the blood in England but I didn’t know the names of the players. I had not investigated Motown in that way. James Jamerson is on a whole other plane. However saying that I have been really listening to a lot of The Beatles just recently and I am beginning to realise that Paul McCartney never played a bad note. He never played a note that wasn’t interesting with The Beatles. There is a lot out there if you have got the ears to listen.

I have to ask you what was it like working with Robert Palmer in your Power Station days.

Robert was a really sweet, very enthusiastic and interesting guy. He created a really interesting character for himself. I was a fan of Robert’s as a kid. I got to know him when Duran Duran took off and he was a great, great fan of music. Robert had such an eclectic taste in music. It was sad that the last time that I worked with Robert I was struggling to connect with him. He was a great guy and what I find amazing is just how underrated he is. Personally I would like to see him in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He made some great records and he is an interesting story Kevin.

Duran Duran were well known for their rather extravagant videos. Do you have a favourite?

I think that the videos which we made out in Sri Lanka; Hungry Like The Wolf and Save A Prayer are rather special. Whenever those videos come on the TV you just can’t ignore them. They are really dazzling and I think that they really moved the needle on just what a promo video could be. Those two are certainly the game changes.

At what point in your career did you feel most musically satisfied?

When you get to the end of an album Kevin like we did a few months ago with Paper Gods and it is delivered all sequenced, I think that there is a great feeling of satisfaction at that point. It is an album of twelve songs, there are literally thousands of decisions that have been made, thousands of arguments, it’s like hammering out a contract. So just to get to that point where you finally have that finished piece of work, where you can actually hold it, that is pretty satisfying. The feeling doesn’t last for long but we all look at each other and we all have that satisfied feeling.

More and more people are streaming music or listening to music on MP3’s while less and less people are buying physical product Kevin, but for me I am still obsessed and addicted to the physical product. I am obsessed with music so for me that is the game that I want to be in. For me it would far less satisfying if we ever stopped making a physical product entirely. I’m sure that the new generation of artists don’t feel that way but I do.

I have to ask you about performing at Live Aid back in 1985. There were 100,000 people inside the Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia together with an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion across 150 nations. How did you feel as a twenty-five year old waiting to go out onto the stage?

It was an amazing day Kevin. It was one of those events where you simply cannot grasp the logistics of putting the whole thing together. It was simply phenomenal really. There was so much good will around the place. Bob Geldof god bless him, he drove that thing along and it was a coalition of the willing rather like when we recorded the Band Aid single. I can remember turning up at the recording studios, looking around and there was Status Quo, there was U2, there was Kool And The Gang, there was Culture Club and it was all very democratic, and that is Geldof. And likewise at Live Aid, there’s Bob Dylan, there’s Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, there’s Led Zeppelin, there’s Madonna, there’s Duran Duran so come on, it doesn’t get any better than that Kevin. The only problem was that the day went by all too quickly.

Also what you have to remember is that at that time Duran Duran were on a temporary split and we were not speaking to each other. Andy (Taylor) and I were touring the States with The Power Station and so we weren’t really talking to the other guys. So we had to kind of get together, rehearse a few numbers, and I have to say that I loved what we did. I love seeing the bands performance from Live Aid.

Which event would you say has changed your life forever?

There are two Kevin. Firstly it would have to be the day that John (Lennon) met Paul (McCartney) and secondly that would have to be The Sex Pistols forming. You and I wouldn’t be having this conversation if there were no Beatles and we wouldn’t be having this conversation if there were no Sex Pistols. Those were the two clinical moments which have allowed me to have a life. It was The Beatles that made my generation realise that pop music was the thing but then it was The Sex Pistols that made you realise that my generation could do it. They both created music revolutions and I got scooped-up in both of them.

Taking you back to 1985 once again, how did it feel when you were asked to record A View To A Kill for the James Bond movie of the same name?

It’s one of those great gigs isn’t it Kevin. Before I was a musician I loved John Barry and I loved the Bond theme so those songs have always resonated with me. I loved James Bond when I was a kid so to be a part of that I mean who doesn’t remember the first time that you heard Live And Let Die. That was a really exciting trip to make and getting to know people in the Bond universe, people like Cubby Broccoli and his daughter Barbara, John Barry and it is like the gift that keeps giving. Having said all of that A View To A Kill was a very difficult song to both write and produce; it was not easy. People were arguing, the whole experience was a nightmare (laughter). But once you get through the finishing line it is a gift that just keeps giving.

Everybody loves Bond and the world of Bond so whenever A View To A Kill comes up in conversation then Duran Duran are also in the conversation. It was a great thing to do and we are always wondering why they don’t ask us to do it again. Whenever we ask ourselves that question the answer is always the same; they are going to ask Sam Smith (laughter). We had a great experience with it.

Are there any ambitions left for you to achieve?

Duran Duran have never played Glastonbury and so I would like to do that. Obviously career wise I would like to get a Grammy, I would love the album to get nominated for a Brit, and as you can probably tell Kevin I do like awards (laughter). I can’t help it (laughter). I want to be in the moment and enjoy the ride as it is happening.

What would you say has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think that has to be the band staying together and keeping the band relationships vital and respectful of each other. And let me tell you that it wasn’t easy. I am an only child, Nick (Rhodes) is an only child and so we have had to learn how to live in a brotherhood. You have to quickly learn that it is not all about you and that you are working within a democracy where everyone is equal. The music industry is an ego driven industry and let me tell you, we have all had ego issues along the way. But I think that maintaining our friendships and our relationships at this point is probably the most significant achievement.

When you have any downtime who do you listen to?

At the moment I am listening to Beach House who are from Baltimore but as I said earlier, I still find myself keep going back to The Beatles. For me they are the go to band, there is something about the journey that they took which I find really fascinating. I haven’t got to the bottom of the well yet with The Beatles. If you are lucky enough to have that fascination with music then you are never going to run out. There is always going to be stuff worth checking out.

Who were you listening to when you were growing up?

The Beatles, David Bowie and then The Clash and The Sex Pistols. They were the most important artists for me.

What was the first record that you bought?

That would have been Thunderbirds Are Go on an EP (Extended Play) and you could buy episodes of the show on an EP. This is a long time before video or anything like that and you could play an episode on your record player. I loved the music of Thunderbirds, I thought that it was fantastic.

Who did you first see playing live in concert?

That was Mick Ronson who was absolutely brilliant.

On that note let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me and good luck with the tour.

Well thank you Kevin and I am so pleased that we were able to do this. Thanks for taking the time out and bye for now. Come and say hi when we get to Nottingham.